Organizational PROBLEM ANALYSIS
Lengthy hours and infrequent vacations can oftentimes contribute to increased stress levels in employees. The increase in stress not only affects the employee, but also their family. Overworked employees suffer from the stress of working too many hours and a lack of quality family time which, in turn, decreases work productivity and increases organizational costs. How can organizations address this issue? We have used several problem-solving techniques to analyze the conflict, such as brainstorming, line graphs, and visualizing, and believe there is a possible solution.
Recognizing the Problem
Many working Americans have been asked to work more hours than originally scheduled to help companies that have downsized remain successful in a suffering economy. Over time, the cumulative extra hours worked takes time away from the family and adds the burden of stress to the employee. This is a common scenario among working Americans that needs to be addressed. Many of us have either experienced this problem first-hand, or know someone who has. This stress overload causes families to separate, employees to lack productivity, and businesses to spend excessively.
Framing the Problem
Several goals must be met in order to resolve the issue. The first be the underlying problem: decrease employee hours and/or increase paid time-off. The second goal would be to increase family time. Achieving goals one and two should increase employee productivity and, therefore, decrease organizational spending. Paying employees to work overtime is much more costly than issuing additional paid time off and only decreases employee morale and production.
Some of the tools and techniques used to frame this problem include brainstorming, a line graph, and visualizing. We first had to determine the initial underlying cause of the problem. We brainstormed as a group and collectively decided that working too many hours was the cause. We then created a line graph, plotting the performance versus overtime hours worked to show the effect long hours have on productivity. As a group we visualized the potential outcome if employers offered more time off and kept employees to their schedule, eliminating overtime hours (“Problem Solving Tools”, 2006).
Effects on the Organization
When employee stress and burnout reaches a peak it affects a company’s bottom line drastically. If an associate at a retailer is upset at the way they are being treated then either that associate can express their concerns to management or it may hit at a critical time in which the employee is helping a customer, resulting in an irate customer who then takes their business elsewhere and a irate employee that may be fired resulting in a staffing shortage. The same could be said in the corporate world. What if an employee has been working long hours and has not seen their family in quite some time except at breakfast and before they go to bed? Like ships passing in the night they don’t see each other very often and their relationships begin to fall apart. Then the bomb hits, the employee is sent to Alaska to help out in another field office that is just starting up, the stress levels and burnout then increase. What happens if the employee decides to get revenge on the company by selling company secrets to its competitors? Having angry employees does not benefit anybody and certainly does not bode well for a company’s bottom line.
Can the Problem Be Solved?
To help companies deal with stress, burnout, and over-worked employees they must implement a plan of action that identifies the happy medium between employee performance and hours of peak performance. Some companies have worked out with their employees that they may need to work overtime but it is usually asked of the employee and not forced on them. Unlike the unlovable character of Bill Lumberg in the classic movie, Office Space, many companies will not ask their employees on Friday to work on Saturday and Sunday without advanced notice. Some employees will actually come in and do their work without being asked because they have a drive to get their projects done or are willing to come in for extra hours for extra money or other incentives.
Antiquate training is also helpful for employees to feel as if they are a valuable asset to the company. “In terms of training and or interventions, there is a need for the worksite to provide structured opportunities for employees to decompress from the emotional demanding aspects of their jobs” (Journal of Managerial Psychology, 2006). This statement basically says that if opportunity for advancement is available or better incentives are given to employees who are willing to work for it then the feeling of stress and burnout are diminished.
In the past decade, due to the ever increasing use of the internet and companies ability to do work on-line and from home, many companies have implemented monitoring devices. At first, many employees were skeptical of the use of these devices suggesting that it was big brother looking over your shoulder and if you made one mistake you got a pink slip. These days it is more acceptable for companies to monitor their employee’s use of the internet, making sure that they are not divulging material to other companies that may be sensitive (the irate employee) or looking at provocative material that is completely non-work related. One reason this was implemented was to help improve employee performance, but some employees may see this as an invasion of their privacy, so the debate continues. “Although the prominence of employee monitoring and surveillance technologies is increasing, very little research has explored the question of employees simply accept these systems (compliance) or enact strategies for thwarting them (resistance)” (Journal of Occupational & Organizational Psychology, 2006).
Determining the Problem is Solved
There are many measurements that can be made to determine when this problem is solved. By keeping a detailed record of the employee’s performance in conjunction with how many hours are worked, one could detect patterns. For example, if the more hours worked indicates less performance, this could tell us that there hasn’t been resolution. Once we could find a balance between hours worked and performance, we would find resolution.
Determining the criteria for measuring a successful outcome is simple for this problem. The supervisor must ask, “Is this employee’s performance being affected by how many hours they are working?” Once they have kept a detailed report on the employee’s performance and hours worked, the supervisor could see that indeed, the days that the employee worked several hours overtime that the performance was low. The supervisor should also be able to see, for example (below), that the days the employee worked only 2 hours overtime that their performance was at their peak.
Amy Joyce from Seattle Times explains what is happening in today’s workplace. “There has been a shift in the workplace because of the economy and companies needing to downsize, right-size or reorganize,”(Joyce, 2003). “Those with gyms, flexible schedules and decent vacation time are coming out on top right now, because those overworked employees are happier and therefore more productive. And they’ll come out on top later, when more people can be hired, because current employees won’t want to run screaming from one office to the more attractive one next door.”
There are many alternative solutions that can be used to increase productivity without requiring the employee to work overtime. Offering motivation for the employee to perform well is usually a sure bet. As humans, we are driven by motivation, especially if it benefits us. Offering more incentives, such as raises, bonuses, more vacation days, etc if the employee performs at a set level, will increase productivity. Another option is to offer overtime as a choice and not as a requirement. This will benefit both the employee and the employer. In this case, the people who actually work overtime are there because they want to, not because they have to, so this will increase productivity and generate revenue. Offering these options to employees helps solve the problem of overworked/unproductive employees. This will ultimately create a better life at home for the employee as well.